Who produces “wealth”? [2]


The obvious rejoinder to the scenario of the two screenprinting girls, presented in the first part of this three-parter, is:

1. That it’s a naive scenario. Employment Law in this country is such that once those two are taken on, all sorts of responsibilities apply to the employer, from NI to compensation, to maternity leave to ….

2. Industrial relations in this country are designed for an “us and them” situation, where employer and employed cannot enjoy good relations, except in larger companies through better conditions and pot luck with small.

3. It is set up, particularly the way the tax regime and local councils act, to drain the employer of all finance early before he actually gets going. That’s why we are one of the worst in the world, just above a third world country. I had a look at small business start-up figures in our region and how many had gone down – as long as you don’t mind a 70-80% chance of going down, then go ahead.

4. That the employer attitude today is appalling – they present an “agreement” with a take it or leave it approach and then the employed are to be ripped off as far as poss. The opposite also applies that there are such cushy IR provisions that once they’re taken on, it’s hard to throw them off. They can be as feckless or whingy as they like.

5. The great toad HR is squatting over the entrance to the job. Their tests are at best bizarre and at worst, let slip by many good workers and potentially good workers. HR are failed businesspeople or people who’ve never tried it. I spoke to one and she spoke of the company she’d been with – “we then expanded to ..” or “we then opened a …” No “she” didn’t, she had nowt to do with it – that was the manager and board who did that. She was an employee, like all those poor sods trying to get past her Caesar-like power of yea or nay.

HR is the single biggest obstacle to economic growth in this country. So the scenario of the screenprinting girls from part one is quite naive, even though it happened in the pre-HR hegemony days. HR is a union in a way and when an employer defers to it, on the grounds that he can’t sort out the complexity of today’s employment law and doesn’t have the time, he is helping promote a guild mentality.

I went for an educational managerial role I should never have had and wouldn’t have given it to myself but it was the principal himself who interviewed and he explored many other areas. There was no HR testing but the questioning was tricky and curly and every month of my working career, virtually, needed to be accounted for, with references at each stage. He didn’t give me that role but he retained me and made contact about a different role later.

The way to break the HR stranglehold is to employ one for a while as one input only, find out about and buy the tests at source, go through them and check out with other managers if they know about this or that one, which seem to be good and retain that. Then move the HR onto something else and if she won’t, she can go. One of your secretaries can do it then, not as an HR but as an added input.


However, that’s digressing. Who produces the wealth? I’d like to ask another question about that – at what point does it become unfair?

Scenario – those two screenprinting girls. Let’s say the business “takes root” and the orders flow in. We need to take on extra girls or even boys. The HR factor comes into it. One of the original girls I judge is reasonably unprejudiced screens newcomers whilst I’m out drumming up business.

I also ask the second girl. I phone a couple of people I know, one in a similar field and the other just someone wise I know and ask them to join the shortlisted three for a coffee at the local cafe. On the basis of that and a roundtable after it, with the original girls taking them through the work, I move and take on two.

It sorts itself over a period of time and then the question of the second works arises – there’s enough business to justify it. Now Girl 1 is made manager of the original works and I go through the same process with N2.

Some years later, there are ten works in different parts of the country and it’s a known name. Advertising comes into it but as much of that is word of mouth, the best of the staff for approaching new business is employed in that role, deputizing for me.

Eventually we need to set up more formally. At what point do I cease to be a contributor to the wealth? What of my 2IC? What of the managers of each of the works? What percentage of the productivity can be assigned to each? Does the latest young man we took on have equal cause as I do to say he produces the wealth?

I now go into other ventures and Girl N1 now manages the whole screenprinting show, which is a division of an offshoot company producing sportswear. Same process. I’m now removed from actually producing these items and coordinate in going from business to business of ours and having meetings with the managers and going to the shop floor and talking to them, even taking a turn at the work.

Have I steadily reduced my contribution to the productivity? By what measure is productivity determined? And if I’m not producing, as much now, should my salary be reduced?


Tomorrow – Mondragon, the success and the myth.

1 comment for “Who produces “wealth”? [2]

  1. MaryS
    April 10, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Your scenario reminds me of a ‘Time Management’ seminar that I attended. The speaker led all the ‘managers’ up a nice garden path, boosting their ego by telling them they had started (say)as engineers and bit by bit the ‘management’ role got greater but the ‘engineer’ role never diminished. Then he drew a chart showing the steady ‘engineer’ workload with a rising ‘manager’ line on top, “a bit like that?”. Lots of knowing nods and murmurs of agreement then “Rubbish! No one can do more than 100%”. Something has to give.

    For what it is worth his other key trick was to ask what we would do if given an extra day from somewhere. Eventually he came back to that and said that it was the ‘extra day’ work that the manager should be doing. To go back to your examples, your girls should be screen printing; you should be looking for better ways for them to work, streamlining processes new tools etc.

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